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Owner denied zoning change for North Austin property

Monday, June 18, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

A North Austin property owner found little sympathy from the Planning Commission last week in his quest to upzone his property at 601 East Applegate Drive.


On a vote of 6-1, the commission elected to go with staff’s recommendation and deny owner Howard K. Landrum’s request to rezone his property to Community Commercial (GR) from the current Limited Office-Mixed Use (LO-MU). His current tenant is an auto repair business that is not permitted to operate at the location under its current zoning.


Commissioner Alfonso Hernandez voted against staff recommendation and Commissioners Dave Anderson and Danette Chimenti were absent.


“This is just going to stop me from using the property altogether, if I can’t get some relief here. This has been used for like 31 years that I know of for automotive repairs, and I don’t know why it can’t be used for that again,” Landrum said.


Landrum said the city had no problems with the auto repair business on the property until he rented it to his most recent tenants. But repeated citations for this very use tell a different story.


“There is apparently a code-compliance issue now. … They found that it was an illegal use back when we were doing the 2005 case. I guess that has resumed. It is currently an illegal, non-conforming use,” said Senior Planner Sherri Sirwaitis. 


In August 2010 a neighborhood plan was adopted for the area, which included zoning the lot LO-MU. Landrum said this zoning change occurred without his knowledge, and though he was seeking a change to GR, he could live with the property being returned to its previous GR-CO zoning.


“I’m from Goldthwaite, Texas and we don’t have all these problems. It’s just a small town, and I’m not familiar with GR, CO, MU and all of that. I thought everything was just going along just fine,” said Lundrum said.


Sirwaitis reminded the commission that the previous zoning of GR-CO came with many restrictions, and would not permit automotive repair either. It would also run afoul of the newly instituted neighborhood plan.


Lyn Galbreth, who is a member of the North Lamar Combined Neighborhood Plan contact team, explained that the zoning change to Limited-Office Mixed Use was intended to serve as a step-down from the commercial zoning of Lamar Boulevard. The property is surrounded on all three sides by residences, and the neighborhood plan attempts to limit the encroachment of commercial enterprises in residential neighborhoods.


“All the work that we’ve been doing these last two years is to change that neighborhood from being a place that you could just sort of wheel in and open a shop and (have) non-conforming use, and get away with it for 30 years. We would like to believe that kind of thing is over in our part of town,” said Galbreth.


Galbreth told the commission that the neighborhood would support any permitted use, and that they were working with Landrum to find one that would work for the space. Commissioners suggested that property would make a fine artists’ studio.

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